I’ve assessed, now what? Teachers: Detectives of Assessment

In part 2 to this 4 part blog series focusing on literacy assessment I tackle the million dollar question of “I’ve Assessed, Now What”? Once the assessment period is completed, this is the question that everyone wants the answer to. What do the results mean, and more importantly, what do I do with them? There is a simple cycle to the assessment process which is depicted in the graphic below that I like to follow and share with colleagues when out in the field as it makes, what can be an abstract process, tangible:

Once you’ve completed your assessments the analysis stage can be summed up by thinking like a detective. When you are looking at class assessment results you’re trying to find patterns:

Teacher Level

  • Are there some common themes that have emerged that will help you target your instruction?
  • What is your plan for goal setting with your students?
  • Which strategies will you try first?
    • What will lend itself best to whole class instruction?
      • Could you use mini lessons on comprehension strategies?
    • What will lend itself best to small group instruction or individual support?

Administrator Level

  • Are there patterns of strengths or weakness at particular grade levels across your school?
  • What supports or resources may be needed?
  • Are you noticing themes, or gaps, which may indicate the need for professional learning with staff to increase expertise in a particular area?

District Level

  • Are there patterns of need at specific grade levels across your school district?
  • Do schools have adequate resources (physical and human) to address these needs?
  • Is there a need for professional learning in specific areas of literacy to increase expertise across the district?

This leads us to Step 3 in the process “Response”. This is where the action happens! You’ve gathered the information and have a clear picture of your learners and are now poised to deliver instruction to best meet your students’ needs. You are designing the response that you’ll provide to your students’ based on what you have learned from the assessment. I’ll share below a couple of methods which keep me focused at this stage.

One is an “old school” poster board mapping of my class profile. I have tried a digital version of this but I’ve come back to my original method. I begin this process by gathering all of the assessment information I have (unedited writing sample, phonics or word work assessments, reading inventories and benchmark assessments, observations, etc.) and take individual notes for each student. I write my students names on sticky notes and place them in one of the 4 quadrants. According to Caldwell & Leslie (2013), reading difficulties tend to fall into three areas:

  1. Word Identification
  2. Fluency
  3. Comprehension

So I like to use these areas and add writing to the mix. But you are free to add more or change the headings to best suit your context.

Once I’ve placed my students in the various quadrants (a student’s name may appear in all 4 quadrants). I’m looking for patterns to direct my class instruction. I will take into consideration the following factors when determining the best course of action to support my students:

  • Human resources
    • Do students receive support by another provider, e.g. E.A., coach, outside services such as SLP). Sometimes this is the case, sometimes I am the sole provider. I create my plan accordingly.
  • Is there a large portion of my class in one, or more of the quadrants?
    • If so, that area will become a focal point for whole class instruction and I will develop mini lessons accordingly.
  • Physical Resources
    • Do I have adequate resources to teach the mini lessons?
  • Are there students at, or around, the same reading level?
    • If so, I can create groupings for Guided Reading
  • Are there students who need support in a particular skill?
    • If so, I can create groupings for skill or strategy based instruction
  • Are there any students who need instruction, which falls outside of whole or small group instruction?
    • If so, I can create a plan to conference with these students.

From there, I make a plan of action for the next two weeks for each of these instructional areas:

  1. Whole Group Lessons
  2. Small Group Support (Guided Reading and/or Strategy Lessons)
  3. Individual Conferencing

If I have the support of a coach, E.A., etc. I will factor those elements into my two week planning to ensure that I am best meeting the needs of my students with the resources I have available to me. There’s been times when I’ve had a lot of both physical and human resources, and there've been times when I’ve had to rely on myself and resources that I could drum up on my own. Either way I make a plan to best support my students with what I have access to.

If you prefer, here’s a link to an action plan where you identify an area you would like to introduce in your literacy instruction and a place to make notes upon reflection. “What’s Your Plan of Action Template?”

While the assessment itself is important it is always good to keep in mind the following:

“The interpretation and use of benchmark data are more important than the scores themselves.” - Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell


Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Blog. Daily Lit Bit - 3/7/19. Fountas, Irene; Pinnell, Gay Su. Retrieved from http://fpblog.fountasandpinnell.com/daily-lit-bit-3/7/19

Caldwell, J. A., & Leslie, L. (2013). Intervention strategies to follow informal reading inventory assessment: so what do I do now? Boston: Pearson.